International Conference on Storytelling and Well-being across Media Borders

Plenary talks

The metaphorical representation of DEPRESSION in short, wordless animation films

Speaker: Charles Forceville, University of Amsterdam

Abstract: According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people on planet earth suffer from depression (March 2018). Although the affliction has over the past few years started to receive more attention, for many people it remains a taboo subject. Getting a better understanding, even if only marginally, of the experience of feeling depressed may be helpful to those who care about patients’ well-being (friends, siblings, parents, therapists) – or even be of some comfort to these patients themselves. Sharing the experience of feeling depressed can perhaps be triggered by wordless animation films that all aim to capture the affliction. Other, non-metaphorical dimensions of the medium of animation will be addressed that allow it to emphasize pertinent aspects of depression not (so easily) representable in purely verbal terms. Fragments of the films examined (several of which appear to have been made by animators with first-hand experience of depression) will be shown as part of the analyses. Audiovisualizing depression in animation can only be done via metaphors. In this presentation, based on research conducted with Sissy Paling, I discuss nine short animation films that all draw on the following two key metaphors: DEPRESSION IS A DARK MONSTER and/or DEPRESSION IS A DARK CONFINING SPACE

Bio:Charles Forceville (associate professor, Media Studies, University of Amsterdam) researches how mainstream visuals, alone or accompanied by information in other modes, convey meaning. Committed to cognitivist approaches, he writes on multimodality in documentary film, animation, advertising, and comics & cartoons. He published Pictorial Metaphor in Advertising (Routledge, 1996) and co-edited Multimodal Metaphor (Mouton de Gruyter, 2009); Creativity and the Agile Mind (Mouton de Gruyter, 2013); and Multimodal Argumentation and Rhetoric in Media Genres (Benjamins, 2017). Having taught a BA-course “Narrative across Media” for eight years, he is intrigued by the interaction of metaphorizing and story-telling.

The impact of prosocial and cooperative video games on prosocial outcomes

Speaker: Tobias Greitemeyer, University of Innsbruck

Abstract: Recent representative national surveys suggest that more than 90% of teens play video games, with the average amount of playing time being around 13 hours per week. Given these numbers, there has been growing interest in the consequences of video game play. Most researchers so far have stressed negative effects of video game exposure. For example, playing violent video games has been shown to be associated with increased aggressive behavior and related affect and cognition. Moreover, violent video game play tends to decrease prosocial responses. However, depending on the content and context of the video game, positive effects are also conceivable. In fact, playing prosocial video games (where the goal is to benefit another game character) is associated with increased helping behavior and decreased aggression. Likewise, playing cooperative video games (where the goal is to benefit another human player) increases cooperation and empathy and ameliorates the negative effects of violent video games. Data will be presented that document these phenomena but also address the underlying psychological processes.

Bio: Tobias Greitemeyer is a full professor of social psychology in the Department of Psychology, University of Innsbruck, Austria. He is particularly interested in how the media may harm but also benefit social interactions. In recent research, he also began studying the impact of social inequality on aggression and how aggressive responses can be reduced. On a more general level, his research addresses how interpersonal relations can be improved.

Historical perspectives on the role of emotions in storytelling and well-being

Speaker: Anja Laukötter, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin

Abstract: The keynote lecture argues that the currently debated “pro-social play” has a history which is a history of emotions. The talk supports this argument by sketching out the close relationship between emotions and storytelling in health campaigns throughout the twentieth century. The talk begins with a brief overview that illustrates how, from the beginning of the twentieth century on, media experts, physicians, and psychologists identified and cultivated media as powerful vehicles for changing behavior. The lecture will also describe how these scientific experts applied different emotional repertoires—ranging from fear, disgust, and shame to empathy and joy—to reach their aims. In a second step, the talk details key aspects of a case study on health campaigns in East and West Germany in the 1980s. Comparisons of the two countries with one another and others within a broader historical context reveals the impact that social, political, and cultural conventions had on the use of different emotional narratives. In turn, emotional narratives worked with a number of media. The analysis of the case study thus concludes by addressing narrative strategies in a variety of media forms, such as printed popular media, pamphlets, film, and TV.

Bio: Anja Laukötter is a researcher in the department of the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and (together with Christian Bonah) co-director of the international research group „The healthy self as body capital: Individuals, market-based societies and body politics in visual media in the 20th Century Europe“ (ERC Advanced Grant) which is based in Strasbourg and Berlin. She studied history, political science and anthropology in Cologne, Berlin and New York. Her first book “Von der ‚Kultur‘ zur ‚Rasse‘ – vom Objekt zum Körper? Völkerkundemuseen und ihre Wissenschaften zu Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts” (2007) is on the history of anthropology and anthropological museums at the turn to the 20th Century. Recently she finished her habilitation in modern history (second book) “Politik im Kino. Eine Emotions- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte des Sexualauf­klärungs­films im 20. Jahrhundert” (2018) at the Humboldt-University in Berlin. Moreover she is the author of various publications in the field of the history of science and knowledge, postcolonial studies, visual media and history of emotions throughout the 19th and 20th Century including several recently co-edited volumes and theme issues such as “Health Education Films in the Twentieth Century” (Rochester University Press 2018, together with Christian Bonah and David Cantor), “History of Science and the Emotions” (Osiris, 2016 together with Otniel Dror & Bettina Hitzer & Pilar Leon-Sanz); and Learning How to Feel. Children’s Literature and the History of Emotional Socialization, 1870-1970 (Oxford University Press, 2014 together with Ute Frevert et al.). And she is co-editor of the bi-lingual platform History of Emotions – Insights into Research, URL: https://www.history-of-emotions.mpg.de/en (since 2013, together with Margrit Pernau).

The ‘Reel Experience’ of War Trauma

Speaker: Harry Yi-Jui Wu, LKS Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong.

Abstract: Since the mid-19th century, visual technology became a tool used by psychiatrists not only as an observational instrument to study mental illnesses, but also as an archiving method and a medium to deliver knowledge. From mid-20th century, experimental psychologists have also been seeking better ways to study the effects of traumatic experiences. Today, despite our understanding of brain reactions to unpleasant events, the ability of individuals to generate voluntary emotional responses to them still generate bias. We have yet to develop better ways to explore the narrative form of trauma. How we process, interpret, and react to traumatic events needs more thorough exploration because such experiences are simply too difficult to replicate in vivo. In this talk, I will review classic documentaries and fictional films on war-related psychological trauma in history and discuss in what ways our mind is scarred by war beyond the grasp of au fait simulation attempts in science, and in what ways scientists have tried to mock up our real lived experiences using visual techniques. I argue, to comprehend the impact of war, in addition to understand trauma by employing mental imagery techniques, it is more telling to explore the impact of war in various narrative forms, such as why we incessantly choose to fight a war we do not believe in, what might be more absurd in our daily lives than the war itself to induce our sense of depersonalization, and how these matters act in concert to create a disordered life.

Bio: Harry Yi-Jui Wu is currently Assistant Professor and Director of Medical Ethics and Humanities Unit, LKS Faculty of Medicine, the University of Hong Kong. He worked briefly at the Department of Psychiatry at Mackay Memorial Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, before continuing his further studies in the UK. He obtained DPhil in Modern History from the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, The University of Oxford. With a broad range of interests derived from his training backgrounds, Dr. Wu has applied historical and ethnographic research methods on several ongoing projects, including history of medicine, medical humanities and science, technology and society (STS). He was recently awarded Yu Ying-Shih Award and Humanities by Academia Sinica in 2017, and Mary Louise Nickerson Award in Neuro History by The Osler Library in 2018. Currently, he is writing a book on the globalization of mental disorders through the work at World Health Organization